When to worry about a sebaceous cyst (2023)

SebumCysts are soft, skin-colored lumps that slowly grow under the skin. They are filled with a thick, oily substance that can leak. Painless, harmless sebaceous cysts can sometimes become inflamed. It is not clear what causes sebaceous cysts to form,

Sebaceous cysts can easily migrate under the skin. Although they can appear anywhere on the body, they are most commonly found on the head, behind the ears, on the neck and trunk.

When to worry about a sebaceous cyst (1)

Some genetic disorders, such as Gardner syndrome, can predispose you to sebaceous cysts. They are more common in adults than children.

This article describes the symptoms of sebaceous cysts, how they are diagnosed, and what treatment options are available. It also explains when it is necessary to remove a sebaceous cyst and how it is performed.

What is a cyst?

AcystIt is a pouch-shaped tissue sac filled with liquid, air, or semi-solid substances like keratin. There are many types of cysts. Some, like sebaceous cysts, appear under the skin. Others form inside the body, such as in the kidneys or chest.

Symptoms of a sebaceous cyst

Sebaceous cysts have several notable characteristics. She:

  • They are soft lumps or bumps
  • Slowly grow just under the skin
  • They are usually painless
  • They usually have a visible hole in the middle called the midpoint.
  • Move freely when touched

Some sebaceous cysts stay the same size over time, while others increase in size. This can become uncomfortable or painful, especially if they are inflamed.

Sebaceous cysts can also become inflamed. If this is the case, you may notice the following:

  • redness
  • sensitivity
  • Heat in the skin over the cyst

What's in a sebaceous cyst?

Sebaceous cysts are filled with a mixture of dead skin cells andcurb, a protein found in hair, skin, nails, glands and internal organs. When a sebaceous cyst opens, keratin will leak out. It looks "doughy" or "cheesy" and can smell bad. Infected sebaceous cysts can also be filled with pus.

Given their name, it's easy to believe that contain sebaceous cystsSebum(Oil) that comes fromsebaceous gland. That's not the case.

Sebaceous cysts develop in the outer layer of skin (theEpidermis). Her right name isEpidermoidzyste, but many people, including healthcare professionals, still use the term sebaceous cyst.


This photo contains content that some people may find explicit or disturbing.

When to worry about a sebaceous cyst (2)

Many medical professionals can diagnose sebaceous cysts with the naked eye. In some cases they may require: aBiopsyor skin culture to rule out similar conditions.

Things that may look like a sebaceous cyst include:

(Video) Sebaceous Cyst Explained Simply

  • abscess: Accumulation of pus under the skin.
  • Lipome: A noncancerous mass of adipose tissue.

Don't try to diagnose yourself. See a doctor to be sure what it is.

Treatment of sebaceous cysts

There are no proven or reliable ways to naturally dissolve a sebaceous cyst.

If a sebaceous cyst is inflamed and uncomfortable,steroid injections in the cyst can be used to soothe and shrink it.

You should never try to open or drain a sebaceous cyst yourself, as this could lead to infection. However, it's okay if they drain on their own.

If a sebaceous cyst becomes infected, a doctor will do itopen and emptywith sterile tools. You can numb the area early on, usually with medication.Lidocaineto minimize pain.

Infection from a sebaceous cyst can spread to the surrounding skin. Calledcellulite, and is a more serious condition. You may need an oral antibiotic in addition to an incision and drainage. You can prevent cellulitis by treating infected cysts right away.

If an operation is necessary

Sometimes sebaceous cysts grow large enough to interfere with your daily life.These may need to be removed. This is usually done through a small skin incision in the dermatologist's office under local anesthesia.

Your doctor will likely wait until your cyst is no longer inflamed or infected before proceeding with surgical removal. This can prevent the cyst from coming back.

Restoring the removal of sebaceous cysts

Sebaceous cyst removal is minimally invasive, so recovery is fairly easy. Recovery becomes more complicated and prolonged if the excised sebaceous cyst site becomes infected.

Otherwise, the length of recovery from sebaceous cyst removal depends on the size of the sebaceous cyst and how it is removed.

If the cyst is surgically removed and there is an open wound, the wound may take several weeks to heal. They may or may not have stains that also need to be removed.

Although the incision and drainage take less time to heal, usually around a week, there is a high chance that the sebaceous cyst will come back and require further treatment and recovery.

How much does it cost to remove a sebaceous cyst?

Benign (noncancerous) sebaceous cysts that don't threaten your health or function are considered cosmetic by many insurance providers, including Medicare. If removing a sebaceous cyst is considered a cosmetic procedure, these insurance companies will not cover it.Without health insurance, sebaceous cyst removal can cost several hundred dollars.


Sebaceous cysts are bumps just under the skin. They are full of keratin. Despite the name, they contain no sebum.

They can usually be diagnosed at first glance. Biopsies, if necessary, can rule out similar problems. Treatments may include steroid injections, drainage, or surgical removal.

A word from Verywell

It's important to see your doctor if you have a growth, lump or lumpVolumein your body

Sebaceous cysts are usually not harmful. Still, your provider can make sure the lump isn't anything more serious.

(Video) What causes Sebaceous Cyst on the scalp? - Dr. Nischal K

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Is a sebaceous cyst removed by squeezing?

    No it won't, it just drains the contents but the pouch stays in place. As long as there is a bag, it will be refilled. If a sebaceous cyst becomes bothersome or inflamed, your doctor may:

    • inject him with steroids
    • drain
    • surgically remove
  • How can I get rid of a sebaceous cyst on my own?

    If it's small and doesn't hurt, which is common, it's best to leave it alone. If it contains pus or is painful, place a warm, damp washcloth over it. This promotes opening and emptying.

  • Which doctor should I see if I have a sebaceous cyst?

    a... seedermatologist. This is a skin specialist who can properly diagnose and treat a sebaceous cyst.

  • Is there a cream against sebaceous cysts?

    There are no over-the-counter or prescription creams to get rid of sebaceous cysts. You may need to prescribe an oral antibiotic if the cyst becomes inflamed. Otherwise, sebaceous cysts can only be drained or removed by healthcare professionals.

11 fonts

Verywell Health uses only quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to back up the facts in our articles. read ourspublishing processto learn more about how we fact-check our content and keep it accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.

  1. National Center for Biotechnology Information, US National Library of Medicine: StatPearls.Epidermoidzyste (Talgzyste).

  2. Berg Sinai.Information about sebaceous cyst.

  3. IP Sempowski.sebaceous cysts. Ten tips for a lighter décolleté.Doctor Can Fam. 2006;52(3):315-317.

  4. Medicine Johns Hopkins.sebaceous cysts.

  5. Sinai cedars.epidermoid cysts of the skin.

  6. National Institutes of Health, National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus.Epidermoidzyste.

  7. Hoang VT, Trinh CT, Nguyen CH, Chansomphou V, Chansomphou V, Tran TTT.Overview of epidermoid cysts.European Journal of Open Radiology. 2019;6:291-301. doi:10.1016/j.ejro.2019.08.003

  8. Garcia-Zuazaga J, Ke MS, Willen M.Epidermoid cyst mimicry: report of seven cases and review of the literature.J Clin Aesthet Dermatol. 2009;2(10):28-33.

  9. National Center for Biotechnology Information, US National Library of Medicine: StatPearls.epidermal inclusion cyst.

  10. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.LCD - removal of benign skin lesions.

  11. American Academy of Dermatology.What is a dermatologist?

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(Video) sebaceous cyst home remedy | How do you treat a sebaceous cyst?
(Video) Alternative Cure for Sebaceous Cyst

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When should I see a doctor for a sebaceous cyst? ›

Call your provider if you notice any new growths in your body. Although cysts are not harmful, your provider should examine you for signs of skin cancer. Some skin cancers look like cystic nodules, so have any new lump examined by your provider. If you do have a cyst, call your provider if it becomes red or painful.

What happens if sebaceous cyst is left untreated? ›

Outlook for a sebaceous cyst

Cysts left untreated can become very large and may eventually require surgical removal if they become uncomfortable. If you have a complete surgical removal, the cyst will most likely not return in the future. In rare cases, the removal site may become infected.

How long can you leave a sebaceous cyst? ›

Most inflamed sebaceous cysts (inflamed due to sebum) are not infected and will settle spontaneously over 4 weeks.

What does a cancerous sebaceous cyst look like? ›

In these areas, SC may look like a slowly growing pink or yellowish lump. This lump may bleed. If you see any of the following for more than 2 weeks, you should immediately make an appointment to see a dermatologist: New growth on your skin, eyelid, or inside your ear.

How do I know if I should get a cyst checked out? ›

When should you seek help for a cyst? Schedule an appointment with a healthcare professional if your cyst becomes very painful or inflamed. This could be a sign of a rupture or an infection. They should check your cyst even if it isn't causing any pain or other problems.

How do you know if a cyst is serious? ›

At any age, see your doctor if you think you have a cyst. See your doctor also if you have symptoms such as bloating, needing to urinate more often, pelvic pressure or pain, or abnormal (unusual) vaginal bleeding. These can be signs of a cyst or other serious problem.

Can a sebaceous cyst turn cancerous? ›

However, they can become infected in some instances, which leads to inflammation, pain and pus. While sebaceous cysts are not a sign of cancer in the majority of cases, in rare circumstances, such as if they recur and grow rapidly after being removed or if they have a diameter greater than 5 cm, they become cancerous.

How often do sebaceous cysts become cancerous? ›

Malignant degeneration of sebaceous and other epidermoid cysts in uncommon, but it does occur in approximately 2.2% of cysts examined.

What kind of doctor removes sebaceous cysts? ›

While most primary care doctors or surgeons can treat cysts on the skin, dermatologists most commonly treat and remove sebaceous and pilar cysts. Dermatologists are focused on treating the skin — so removing cysts is a natural part of their training and focus.

How do you calm down a sebaceous cyst? ›

Try applying a hot, wet compress to the cyst a few times a day. The heat will help pull out the pus, allowing the cyst to drain. This can relieve pain and itching. You might also try soaking the area in a warm, shallow bath.

Can you have a sebaceous cyst for years? ›

A sebaceous cyst can form when the opening to a sebaceous gland becomes blocked. The oily substance called sebum continues to be produced but cannot escape to the outer skin surface. The cyst may remain small for years, or it may continue to get larger. These cysts are rare in children but common in adults.

Do sebaceous cysts go hard? ›

Sebaceous cysts are hardened, fluid/pus-filled bumps underneath the skin. They may be very small (about pea-sized) to 5 centimeters across. They usually appear as a yellow or white lump on your skin and they often do not cause any pain.

Is there a way to tell if a cyst is cancerous? ›

The best test to determine whether a cyst or tumor is benign or malignant is a biopsy. This procedure involves removing a sample of the affected tissue — or, in some cases, the entire suspicious area — and studying it under a microscope.

How big can a sebaceous cyst get? ›

Epidermoid cysts, also called Epidermal cysts, Epidermal inclusion cysts and Sebaceous cysts vary in size from very small (< 1 cm or ½ inch) to very large (> 4-5 cm or 2 inches).

Is sebaceous cyst removal a major surgery? ›

Cyst removal is a minimally-invasive procedure that can be performed for cosmetic or medical reasons. This outpatient procedure involves four steps: Administration of local anesthetic. Cutting into the skin.

At what size should a cyst be removed? ›

Size is also one of several factors that can help determine whether a cyst needs to be surgically removed. Generally speaking, surgery isn't recommended for ovarian cysts unless they're larger than 50 to 60 millimeters (mm) (about 2 to 2.4 inches) in size. However, this guideline can vary.

What kind of doctor do you see for cysts? ›

Most cysts are fairly easy to remove, and your dermatologist can remove them in their office in around 10 minutes. The procedure starts with a little local anesthetic to number the area.

How do you get rid of a large sebaceous cyst? ›

How are sebaceous cysts treated?
  1. Laser-aided excision. The cyst is drained when a laser makes a small hole.
  2. Conventional wide excision. This procedure leaves a long scar after the cyst is removed.
  3. Minimal excision. The cyst is removed using a smaller incision in the skin overlying the cyst.
  4. Punch excision.
Jan 15, 2021

What are the chances of a cyst being cancerous? ›

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services estimates that 5 to 10 percent of women have surgery to remove an ovarian cyst, but only 13 to 21 percent of those are cancerous.

Can an urgent care drain a cyst? ›

Fortunately, cyst treatment is typically fairly simple. Unless it is a very deep or large cyst, treatment can be performed in the urgent care outpatient setting.

How worried should I be about a cyst? ›

Most cysts are benign (non-cancerous), but some are cancerous or precancerous and must be removed. In addition, if a cyst is filled with pus, that means it's infected and could form an abscess, so you should see a doctor if you feel pain when you touch a cyst.

Why is my sebaceous cyst getting larger and painful? ›

Occasionally, when these cysts rupture underneath the skin, the keratin inside them leaks into the surrounding tissue and causes inflammation. In this case, they can become painful/red. Also, bacteria can occasionally get inside the cyst and cause an infection.

Do sebaceous cysts always burst? ›

Some sebaceous cysts rupture while they are small. Others become very large, but eventually all cysts rupture.

Are sebaceous cysts covered by insurance? ›

Benign (non-cancerous) sebaceous cysts that do not threaten your health or function are considered cosmetic by many insurance providers, including Medicare. When sebaceous cyst removal is considered a cosmetic procedure, these insurers will not cover it.

Will the ER remove a sebaceous cyst? ›

Antibiotics without drainage are ineffective in treating abscesses. 2 The vast majority of infected sebaceous cysts may be drained in the Emergency Department, clinic, or office setting.

How long is surgery to remove a sebaceous cyst? ›

It should take no longer than 30-60 minutes to remove most cysts. Your post-treatment options depend on what type of cyst removal your doctor used. After lancing a cyst, the wound needs to be left open for healing. It will continue to drain after the procedure.

Should you massage a sebaceous cyst? ›

Massage directly onto the cyst is discouraged, as this may cause your client pain and may even cause the cyst to swell to a larger size. If the cyst is irritating the client and they are coming to you to treat it, you must refer them to their healthcare practitioner.

Why does a sebaceous cyst keep filling up? ›

To treat an inflamed or infected cyst your doctor may drain the infection and place you on antibiotics. But draining the contents of the cyst does not remove the cyst cavity itself. So the cyst “comes back” when it fills back up with oil and dead skin cells.

How do you soften a hard sebaceous cyst? ›

Wash the cyst and surrounding area with soap and water and apply a warm compress for 20 minutes to help soften the trapped sebum and keratin. This may encourage the cyst to drain on its own (and relieve some discomfort in the process).

Can a cyst become cancerous over time? ›

Can cysts turn into cancer? Most cysts are benign, but some can also develop into cancer. “Depending on the cyst location and type, some can be precancerous and need to be followed or removed. It can be like a polyp in the colon, each type having varying risk of developing into cancer,” Dr.

What does it mean when a cyst gets harder? ›

Cysts feel like soft blisters when they are close to the skin's surface, but they can feel like hard lumps when they develop deeper beneath the skin. A hard cyst near to the surface of the skin usually contains trapped dead skin cells or proteins.

Do sebaceous cysts get bigger and smaller? ›

Cysts can remain small for years or they can keep growing larger. Sometimes, as noted above, a sebaceous cyst can disappear on its own, but surgery is usually necessary to remove them.

What does an infected cyst look like? ›

It's yellow or white, often with a small dark plug through which you might be able to squeeze out pus. Cysts can range in size from smaller than a pea to a few centimetres across. They grow slowly. Skin cysts do not usually hurt, but can become tender, sore and red if they become infected.

What does a non cancerous cyst feel like? ›

Breast cyst

They are usually noncancerous (benign). You may have one or multiple breast cysts. A breast cyst often feels like a grape or a water-filled balloon, but sometimes a breast cyst feels firm. Breast cysts don't require treatment unless a cyst is large and painful or uncomfortable.

Is a cyst hard or soft? ›

Cysts can feel either soft or hard. When close to the surface of the breast, cysts can feel like a large blister, smooth on the outside, but fluid-filled on the inside. When they are deep in breast tissue, cysts will feel like hard lumps because they are covered with tissue.

What does a cyst feel like compared to a tumor? ›

Cysts can feel tender to the touch, and a person may be able to move one easily. Tumors can also grow almost anywhere in the body. They tend to grow quickly and are usually firm to the touch.

How big is too big for a cyst? ›

Large cysts (>5 to 10 cm) are more likely to require surgical removal compared with smaller cysts. However, a large size does not predict whether a cyst is cancerous. If the cyst appears suspicious for cancer (based on tests) or if you have risk factors for ovarian cancer.

When should you get surgery for a cyst? ›

Large or persistent ovarian cysts, or cysts that are causing symptoms, usually need to be surgically removed. Surgery is also normally recommended if there are concerns that the cyst could be cancerous or could become cancerous.

What is the cost of removing a sebaceous cyst? ›

The cost of a sebaceous cyst removal is dependent on the complexity of your case. The cost of most minor procedures at The Plastic Surgery Clinic range anywhere from $275-$350.

Can a regular doctor remove a sebaceous cyst? ›

What Type of Doctors Treat Cysts? While most primary care doctors or surgeons can treat cysts on the skin, dermatologists most commonly treat and remove sebaceous and pilar cysts. Dermatologists are focused on treating the skin — so removing cysts is a natural part of their training and focus.

How do doctors treat a sebaceous cyst? ›

A cyst can be injected with steroids. This can reduce inflammation and the cyst may not need to be drained. But infected cysts may need to be cut and drained. To do this, your provider makes a hole in (punctures) the top and removes the contents.

How long is hospital stay for cyst removal? ›

Most patients can go home the same day. In some cases, an overnight stay may be required. Expect some soreness around the surgical site during the first 24 to 48 hours following surgery.

How long does it take for a sebaceous cyst to burst? ›

Without treatment, cysts will eventually rupture and partially drain. It may take months (or years) for these to progress. Once they rupture, the painful sebaceous cyst will likely return if the pocket lining is not removed entirely.

Is sebaceous cyst removal covered by insurance? ›

Insurance usually covers cyst removals. Since a cyst removal is a medical procedure (not cosmetic), the costs go against your deductible. Exact cyst removal costs depend on your insurance and whether you've met your deductible.

Should a sebaceous cyst be biopsied? ›

Sebaceous cysts are far less common than epidermoid cysts. Although the appearance of a sebaceous cyst may be slightly yellowish, the diagnosis is officially confirmed after a pathologist examines the cyst after removal. In some cases, the healthcare provider will perform a biopsy to rule out other skin growths.

What if a sebaceous cyst hurts? ›

Skin cysts, or sebaceous cysts, are fluid-filled sacs that develop on the skin. They are usually harmless, but a doctor may recommend draining or removing a cyst if it becomes uncomfortable. People should see their doctor if they notice any new lump on the skin or are concerned about an existing lump.


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